Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last day in Rome

Tuesday was our last day in Rome and I had one more place that I wanted to visit….the Catacombs of Priscilla.  We had kept putting this trip off because it was a long distance from any metro station but I decided that this was the day to go for it. 

I rode with Michael to his stop on the Metro and got off at Bologna, the next stop.  I managed to follow the streets pretty well and hit a dead-end at the park that it LOOKED like the catacombs were located in.  Unfortunately, there was a wall around the park, so I had to backtrack to find a opening so that I could enter the park.  After following the trails for about 10 minutes , I came to the place that I THOUGHT was the catacombs….at least it was the building that was located next to the words “Catacombe de Priscilla”.  After asking one runner on the trail, I found out that the catacombs were not actually IN the park, but on the street that paralleled the park….ie, the street that I had already walked down!!

So, I backtracked again and found the small sign that pointed to the door into the catacomb. 

As usual, I did observe several interesting things.  First of all, there was a paid parking area where each space had a small gate in front of it.  The owner of the space would put a key in the lock and the gate would fold down, allowing the car to park on top of it.  I thought it was ingenious!!  Another funny thing was coming up to a stop light and have two violinists walking from car to car while they played and seeing many people roll down their window to give them money.  I guess that Italians really like their music!!!   There was also a car pulling into a TINY, TINY garage with only a few inches to spare on each side.  The really intriguing part  of this is that the car had to make a 90 degree turn to get into the garage.  I have no idea how he managed it!!!!  The final observance reminded me a bit of India as I walked past a motorcycle repair shop where the actual repairing was happening on the street and sidewalk and not inside the store.

Once inside the catacomb, I was told that you could see the tour by guided tour  only and that the next English tour would be about 20 minutes.  While I was waiting, a group of 30 German students and parents arrived and their tour began.  There were also an Irish couple who obviously spoke German that joined their tour.  After a couple of minutes, the Priest came out and said that the English speaking tour was being delayed and I could either wait or join the German tour….he would provide pages for me to read while the guide talked.  So, that is what I did.

In some respects it was harder, but the upshot was that I was at the very back of the tour group (since I didn’t really need to hear the guide) and I was able to hang back and look around some as the tour proceeded forward.  Unfortunately, you couldn’t take photos so any that I show here will be from the internet.

Christians could not be buried inside the walls of Rome and this tomb was built on land that was donated by a noble woman named Priscilla.  Because there was not much room available, every inch was used to hold dead bodies.  By the way, the tomb was completely empty  except for a couple of errant bones.

As you walked down the tunnels, there were rectangular cut-outs in each of the walls, normally 7 or more from top to bottom, and about 12-14 inches in depth.   


The deeper ones were built to hold a husband and wife together and much smaller ones were designed to hold children.  Some of these have never been opened and probably still contain the bones of the little ones. 

While the “normal” Christian was buried in these small niches, there were large, cave like openings that were for richer families or for martyrs.  Many of the walls of these were covered with frescoes of  Biblical stories….everything from Daniel in the lions den to Madonna’s with the baby Jesus. 


This one had a vaulted ceiling and lots of pictures on the walls.  There was also an area for people to sit while worshiping. 


In all there are 13 kilometers of burial galleries that are spread out on 3 levels of tunnels.  It would have been very easy to have become lost in them, especially in the dark!!!

As I walked back to the apartment, I saw this billboard…..


Do any of you remember the old Coppertone ads….doesn’t this look like it?  I cant for the life of me figure out what they are selling here!!!!

I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the junk in the apartment and packing our bags.  With all of the clothes and stuff we have bought, we have now moved into another tote bag that will become a carryon.

We went for dinner at the place across the street and enjoyed talking with our favorite waitress….


…and then off for Gelato with our second favorite waitress (who gave us a much larger helping this time)….

_9289891….and then to climb those damn stairs ONE MORE TIME…_9289892

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Three Beagle Day

On Sunday night I realized that I only had two days left in Rome, so I made a list of the places that I still needed to see and planned my Monday visits.  Michael and I both left at the same time around 8:00am and walked to the Trevi Fountain.  As with the last time, the water was turned off and there were men cleaning the fountain and collecting all of the coins that had been thrown in.  Apparently the coins are used to help the homeless in Rome.  As he headed the opposite direction to go to work, I headed off toward the Campo di Fiore which is a local market. 

It was interesting to walk thru the empty streets and realized that they seemed really wide….the reason….none of the restaurants had their tables out in the middle of the street yet!!!

In walking there, I had to go thru Piazza Navona again and was really excited to see that there were very few people in the plaza and it was a wonderful time for taking photos….


_9279712 It was here that I had the first Beagle spotting….. a cute little dog with a smiling owner who was happy that I was interested in her dog.

The Campo de Fiori market was a fun place to take photos and also do some shopping.  It is not as large as the markets that we have seen in Portugal or in China, but had several vendors selling beautiful fruits and vegies….


_9279743 _9279730 _9279731 _9279732  _9279738 _9279739

One of the stalls was filled with bins of herbs and spices, each marked with the type of meal it was to be used with….one was Bruschetta, one was Pesto, etc.  I would have loved to buy some, but am afraid that they would not be considered as “processed” foods and not allowed into the US.


I bought a few souvenirs and also some tomatoes and potatoes for our dinner tonight. 

The second stop of the day was going to be the Church of San Giovanni in Laterno and the “Scala Santa”.  The only problem was that the Holy Stairs closed at noon and it was already 10:50 so I knew that I needed to hurry. I jogged down to the Metro station and hopped onto the train, thinking that the metro station was right across the street from the church.  Unfortunately, this is what I saw when I got up to street level…..

_9279870Now, if I had of looked UP I could have seen the top of the Cathedral, but since I didn’t do that, I went back into the underground station and came up on the other side of the street, but still no church!!!  I walked a couple of minutes and then FINALLY looked up and saw the cathedral….

_9279872  ….on the other side of the wall around the city.  So, I hurried thru the portico and up to the cathedral.  I walked inside but couldn’t find the Holy Stairs and finally read in Rick Steve’s book that the stairs were in a building on the side of the church.  I left on the right side, but finally found out that they were on the left side.  I got there about 11:40. 

Now about these stairs…..they are called “Scala Santa” and according to tradition, they were brought here to Rome in 326AD  by Saint Helen who was Constantine’s mother.  It was believed to be the stairway from the palace of Pilate in Jerusalem which Jesus was supposed to have traversed several times on the day of his condemnation.  It is comprised of 28 marble steps which have been covered with walnut wood to protect them.  Tradition says that that you can only ascend the stairs on your knees and this is what I wanted to do!!!


I was one of the last to be allowed on the stairs before they closed for lunch.  It was quite painful to climb them on my knees, but was a wonderful, worshipful experience!!!

I returned to the main church, opened the door and saw this….._9279861

…..I was in quilter’s paradise and proceeded to take 92 photos of the tile patterns in the floor.  They were wonderful…..

_9279857 _9279841 Hopefully you quilters out there will be seeing more of these as we go!!!!

In the afternoon, Michael and I walked about 2 miles to the church, San Roberto Bellarmino which was built in the 1933.  This is the home church of Flavio who is one of Michael’s colleagues at the University, and he has been the organist there for the past 8 years.  He gave us a short concert consisting of several wonderful pieces. 


It was a great way to end our day!!!!

By the way, while we were waiting for Flavio we saw 2 other fun Beagles….the first was an older male and the second a cute puppy about 4 or 5 months old…thus the name of the post!!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Walk in the Park

We had heard a rumor that Pope Benedict XVI was going to be appearing at  Saint Peter’s square on Sunday morning so we all trouped off to be there at 8:30.  Unfortunately, our information was incorrect and he was not there, so Roy and Diane decided to attend the 9:00am Mass there and Michael and I went for a walk around the area and then back to our “big donut” shop and had donuts and coffee. 

Vatican City is surrounded by a wall and we walked around it for a bit….

  _9269679_9269681 _9269682 As we were leaving the area, we were surprised to see that the line to the Vatican Museum was completely around the  block….which means that the wait was about 2+ hours…..


It is obvious that these people did NOT read Rick Steve’s book that you should arrive at 2:00 pm to avoid all of the lines!!

We all re-grouped at the apartment and had a nice lunch of fresh tomatoes, Buffala Mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil and bread.

We decided to go out for a walk, leaving around 2:00pm.  The first stop was in Spagna at the Spanish Steps. We spent a few minutes looking down at the steps but couldn’t be bothered to actually climb them.  We had fun watching one particular hawker……he carried a bunch of red roses and he would go up to a woman and “give” her 3 roses.  Then, as the male partner would thank him for the flowers, the hawker would shake his hand and request money from him.  Most people would then return the flowers,  but we did see a few people walking around with flowers in their hands!!

We continued past the steps and into the  Borghese park which is 3 squares miles in size.  The first thing that we heard was a wonderful trumpet player who was Busking on the side of one of the walkways.  We sat down on a bench across from him and enjoyed listening……


He started playing a song that Roy and Diane loved (however, they cant remember the name of it right now), and they started dancing.  Several people clapped for them, a bunch took photos and EVERYBODY smiled!!!!!


We continued walking for about 2 hours and really enjoyed watching the families at play.  Some were riding bikes, roller-blading, riding in pedal carts, playing soccer and just having a great time!!!!!

We loved seeing these statues….



…..and these two lovely ladies…._9269695

We probably walked about 3 miles but thoroughly enjoyed seeing how families spend a Sunday afternoon in Rome!!!!!

For dinner we ate at our own “personal” restaurant across the street and had an excellent meal.  My favorite part was a lasagna that is SO light and creamy.  I counted eight layers of a super thin noodle!!!

We ended up with Gelato and then waddled our way back up the stairs!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ancient Rome again

This morning (Saturday) we all visited the Coliseum and Roman Forum again.  This time I was not as interested in photographing the Coliseum as a whole, but tried to focus on cool textures, walls, windows etc.   It was a LOT of fun.  Here are a few of my favorite shots…..

_9259508 _9259519

_9259523 _9259527


It was obvious that this particular cat couldn’t read the sign about not climbing on the structures…..

_9259547 These are a couple of favorite shots as well…..

_9259557 _9259514 We crossed the street from the Coliseum and entered the Roman Forum.  Some people would worry about getting lost, but we didn’t because we had our Rick Steve’s book…..

_9259609 I continued my search for interesting textures and came up with these….


_9259588 _9259613

_9259605We said Good-bye to ancient Rome and headed back to the apartment.  After a wonderful lunch of Pepper cheese, prosciutto, bread and butter, we went out shopping at our favorite clothes store.  Michael bought a pair of nice pants and I got a cute pair of shoes. 

_9259670 Cant wait to wear them but I will NOT wear them here on the cobblestone streets…..

As Diane and I were leaving the store, we saw that something was happening at the end of the block.  Being good “sticky-beaks” (the Australian term for someone who has to know everything that is going on) we walked down for a look.   It ended up being a HUGE  animal rights parade with over 1,000 people and dogs walking thru the street, chanting, blowing whistles and playing music.  We watched for a few minutes, particularly appreciating the blockade of police officers blocking one of the other streets.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera so there are no photos but Diane got a few that I can get later.

After dinner we left the apartment with the idea of getting Gelato and then walking to the Spanish Steps.  Unfortunately it started to rain fairly hard and, as we had all forgotten to bring rain gear, we instead hurried back to the apartment for the evening.

The day of the big feet

This morning Michael stayed at the apartment to work so Roy, Diane and I walked down to the Capitoline Museum.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), we ended up at the Victor Emmanuel Monument which is a HUGE monument built to honor Italy’s first king.  The views were engaging from the monument, but, other than that, there was not much to it. 

_9249416 _9249422 _9249421 We left the monument and found our way to the Capitoline Museum which is supposedly the oldest in the world.  It is divided into two parts and connected with a passageway that gives great views over the Roman Forum…..



In the first courtyard there were wonderful parts of a massive structure of Constantine.  I particularly loved the feet and hand…..

_9249431Diane got yelled at for touching the Big toe!!!!!

This one seems to have a corn on his little toe…..

_9249432 _9249433 Once inside the museum you couldn’t take photos, however many of the nicest pieces were in an open area where you could photograph.  This statue of Marcus Aurelius was great…..

_9249440 This statue is of Romulus and Remus who are considered to be the founders of Rome.  Legend says that the were suckled by a “She-Wolf”…..


The last part of the museum provided information about the Knights of Columbus.  I had not realized that the KoC is an organization of Catholic men and that they do a lot of philanthropic work.  Apparently in World War II when the US was bombing Rome,  the Pope wrote a letter to FDR requesting that he cease bombing ancient Rome and the KoC worked to get the letter to the US.   The Knights worked to provide food to the thousands that were left homeless during the war, and in current times, have built playgrounds all over Rome and even gave financial aide after the September 11th bombing.   There was one display showing some of the steel girders from the WTC….

_9249478In the afternoon, we did a few housekeeping chores like getting the Carroll’s train passes validated and their train reservations set up.  Our final jaunt of the afternoon was to see the “Cappucin Crypt” again. 

Diane cooked dinner for us and we dined on pork filets, pasta with Bolognese sauce, and a salad made from pickled vegetables and fresh tomatoes…..It was magnificent.

We made our usual evening trip to get Gelato and then Michael and I retired for the evening as Roy and Diane headed to the Trevi Fountain to check out the night life.

By the way, when Roy and Diane were visiting St. Peters, they met the same old gentleman that Lyn and I met.  R&D said that they understood every 3 words which is WAY more than I did!!!!  He does get around!!!

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